New biomarker panel could support colorectal cancer diagnosis

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the West, linked largely to a love of booze, red meat and high-fat food combined with a lack of exercise. Further, symptoms are of the kind that people often don't want to talk to their doctors about--such as changes in "bowel habits"--and screening is either costly, invasive or not very specific. All the more reason why there's a need for a panel of biomarkers.

In a study published in BMC Cancer, a team of Spanish researchers analyzed the genetic material from tumors at different stages and compared these against non-tumor samples. They found genes directly involved in cancer progression, creating a genetic biomarker panel of 7 genes that should be able to discriminate accurately between non-cancerous and cancerous samples.

A diagnosis of colorectal cancer need not be a death sentence, and the use of biomarkers could differentiate the disease from others that mimic the symptoms, meaning that patients could be treated much earlier and have a better potential outcome. Future work is planned to look at each stage of disease, and according to the researchers, this biomarker panel could constitute the basis of a new tool with strong potential for colorectal cancer diagnosis.

- see the paper (.pdf)